Austin to change land rules to expand where people can live in RVs and tiny homes
Home living in Austin just got a little smaller — well, for some.
In another move to create more attainable places to live, the Austin City Council on Thursday gave a thumbs up on changing land rules to allow people to live in an RV or tiny home in more places across the city.
The city already allows residents to store these properties on their land. The proposed rule would allow people to hook up utilities to a tiny home or RV so they could live in it without it being in a mobile home park, campground or other designated area.
Austin has become increasingly expensive for working-class families, pushing many to the city's outskirts. Over the last several months, the city has made a series of moves in an effort to change land use rules to create more affordable housing options.
Council Member Leslie Pool, who led the initiative, said this land rule is not a new concept. The city reviewed the potential of people living in RVs and tiny homes in more places in 2014. It found changes to the land rules was necessary, but nothing was done.
“Folks have been asking us to move on this ever since,” Pool said. “We need to make it really easy for families to add options to house their kids, their parents or just to rent a unit out to help pay the mortgage.”
She said because tiny homes are smaller and easier to fit onto the average lot, they are more affordable for the average household to buy than an accessory dwelling unit.
“Making tiny homes easier to permit and move into is the point of this resolution, and it complements my HOME initiative that proposes gentle density increases for single-family neighborhoods,” she said, referring to an initiative approved in July that would greatly reduce the amount of land required to build a house.
Council has made a series of other decisions this summer to change the land use rules.
In May, it nixed minimum parking mandates citywide, incentivizing builders to use that space for housing instead of cars. A month later, the council approved a plan that would allow taller buildings within about 100 feet of a single-family home.
There were some concerns among residents that the RVs and tiny homes come mean more short-term rentals in Austin. Council Member Mackenzie Kelly added language to the ordinance that would require homeowners to register a unit if it would be used as a short-term rental.
City staff was directed to come back to council with proposed code changes by Nov. 30.